Decorative early regional map of Brittany, with two elaborate cartouches and attractive hand-coloring. This map, by the important French cartographer Nicolas Sanson, shows, in detail, the Breton peninsula in western France.
Detail on this map is extensive, with many forests, towns, rivers, marshes, and more all shown on land. Offshore detail is equally well developed, with islands, rocks, and dangerous sandbanks marked. Sanson's maps are renowned for their accuracy and the number of features they show, and they are some of the earliest regional maps of France to be published in France with such high quality.
Brittany is now known as a culturally distinct part of France renowned for its crepes, but during the mid-17th century it was a center of French trade and power. Brittanny had only been absorbed into France 120 years prior to the making of this map during the reign of Francis I. Exemptions on certain taxes as well as its location on major seaways led to prosperity during the growth of the French colonial empire. By the 18th century, the importance of the Breton economy would decline due to a series of rebellions and a focus of the central government on increased industrialization.
This map is dedicated to Armand de Cambout, the first Duke of Coislin. Held in high regard by Louis XIV, he was a member of the Academie Francaise at 16 and later the lieutenant-general of Lower Brittany for the French army.
Nicholas Sanson (1600-1667) is considered the father of French cartography in its golden age from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth. Over the course of his career he produced over 300 maps; they are known for their clean style and extensive research. Sanson was largely responsible for beginning the shift of cartographic production and excellence from Amsterdam to Paris in the later-seventeenth century.
Sanson was born in Abbeville in Picardy. He made his first map at age twenty, a wall map of ancient Gaul. Upon moving to Paris, he gained the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, who made an introduction of Sanson to King Louis XIII. This led to Sanson's tutoring of the king and the granting of the title ingenieur-geographe du roi.
His success can be chalked up to his geographic and research skills, but also to his partnership with Pierre Mariette. Early in his career, Sanson worked primarily with the publisher Melchior Tavernier. Mariette purchased Tavernier’s business in 1644. Sanson worked with Mariette until 1657, when the latter died. Mariette’s son, also Pierre, helped to publish the Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde (1658), Sanson' atlas and the first French world atlas.